• by Aurelio M. Montemayor • IDRA Newsletter • October 1996 • Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed.

IDRA Interview

Interviewer Aurelio Montemayor: Clementina Padilla, one of the prime movers in the emerging parent group, Families United for Education, suggested we could interview her granddaughter, Liliana Cavazos, for an opinion piece by an adolescent. I had not yet met the 14­ year ­old eighth grader face­ to ­face. We made a telephone appointment, and she agreed to be interviewed over the phone. I had no idea what responses I would get. I briefly talked to her mother who was happy that Liliana was going to be interviewed and also mentioned that she was going to attend an upcoming parent conference to hear her daughter speak on a bilingual teen panel. Liliana is articulate in both English and Spanish, and she asked me in what language I preferred to conduct the interview. I chose English because I sweat blood figuring out where the accents go. Below are her comments. The first question was: What is student leadership to you?

Answer: “I don’t think that there should be competition for leadership. It doesn’t mean being popular but having qualities that your friends look up to not so much looking up to you, but wanting your advice. It’s really great when you can be there for someone when they really need you.

“Some adults tell young people that they are not worth much because they are teens. There are many teenagers, most of my friends, who are doing good things. As in my science club, we’re helping out the community. Adults should encourage teenagers in what they can do. They can help the community, and they need to be encouraged to do that, not just be there in class not contributing. But they need much encouragement.

“We’re the future. If adults make a big mistake, it’s going to affect us. We need all the encouragement we can get to make America and the world a better place.”

Question: What support do teenagers need from their teachers?

Answer: “There’s nothing much really happening with the teachers, although we are experiencing some prejudice on my campus. Maybe it isn’t prejudice, but I was supposed to get D Hall [detention] while another girl only got a warning. We don’t know it for a fact, but some of us feel there is prejudice at school.

“We need educational support. Sometimes they tell you, ‘We’ll help you with your math’ or whatever, and you show up and there’s other students there, and you don’t get the attention you need. The teachers get on your case because you’re not doing well and some jump on you for any little thing.

“The counseling programs are helping the kids out a lot because we have help for almost any problem. You can go talk to a counselor or a student about any problem that you have. I’m one of the youth counselors. They are helping because many parents are working and the students need the help.”

Question: What support do teenagers need from school?

Answer: “One thing that I like to talk about and debate about is how adults, not all adults, but some adults are overlooking teenagers. It makes some teens feel as if we are not really worth much. But, there some of us out there making a difference some who were in gangs and are now cleaning up the graffiti. It’s not fair to the teens that are doing something to be put under the category of worthless teenagers and to be overlooked.”

Question: What reasons do students give for dropping out of school?

Answer: “When students drop out of school I guess it’s because they just feel they can’t make it any more. They are making really bad grades and they’re probably thinking ‘I’m good for nothing,’ and they feel they won’t succeed in life. This is not doing anything for me.”

Question: How do you feel about being bilingual?

Answer: “I feel proud about being bilingual. I know that right now there’s this whole issue about immigrants and that doesn’t really bother me. I understand there are two sides to this issue. I understand that America is overcrowding. But also you must understand that immigrants aren’t here to make trouble. They’re hard workers…All they’re trying to do is support their family.”

Question: What are some positive examples of support that you have received?

Answer: “My mom’s always there for me, whether I’m in a good or bad mood, she’s there o help me out. She can always help me feel good. She helps me out with my homework. She’s helped me out with my problems in having friends and peer pressure. She’s talked to me about sex and the all the diseases so I know how to protect myself.

“My teachers recognize me in the classroom and that feels really great. Although many students say I’m teacher’s pet, I can always go the them for help. The women teachers especially, I can tell my problems to if I need to. I can give advice, but sometimes it’s hard to solve my own problems.”

Question: Your grandmother speaks and understands very little English. How do you feel about her and her contributions to others?

Answer: “That’s mostly where I get my influence…I want to be like her. I want to help out people because in our society there’s a lot of trouble going on. My grandmother gives me a lot of advice. I give my friends the advice I get from my grandmother and from my mother. In my family we can always come to her for advice. She is my model.”

Liliana’s mother, Guadalupe Cavazos, told me that Liliana is in the National Junior Honor Society, is in the student council and participated in the MedPrep program during the summer. Ms. Cavazos herself, an immigrant, is taking courses at a local community college, and her ultimate goal is to be a pharmacist.

Aurelio M. Montemayor is the lead trainer in IDRA’s Division of Professional Development. Comments and questions may be directed via e-mail to feedback@idra.org.

[©1996, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the October 1996 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]